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Living history A candlelight tour through the Moravian Cemetery
By: CORY VAN BROOKHOVEN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
A chilly, dark and rainy evening proved to be the perfect atmosphere for this year’s Candlelight Cemetery Tour.
The popular October event, now in its fifth year, is organized by the Lititz Moravian Archives Committee. Despite the weather on Oct. 7, more than 100 curious visitors showed up to learn more about early Moravian life as live actors portrayed historic church members from many years ago.
As in past years, people arriving to the tour first gathered in the church’s sanctuary where Moravian historian Dale Shelley discussed early downtown Lititz ways of life before groups were dismissed every several minutes.
"It shows the younger generation what people did in the past. It’s a great thing for the community," stated church member Tim Hartel, while preparing to portray Thomas Utley later on in the cemetery.
With umbrellas in hand, the groups one-by-one made their way to the first stop on the tour. The Leichen Kappelchen, or Corpse House, which was constructed by the congregation in 1786 is a rare architectural gem here in Lancaster County and was the first stop before entering the cemetery. Guide Tom Wentzel explained that this was the place where deceased members of the church were placed before burial. He also pointed out cooling boards located within the Corpse House which were used to stiffen and straighten the body of the deceased before being placed in their coffins for burial.
While making their way up to the cemetery, groups were treated to the sounds of the Lititz Moravian trombone choir that played traditional Moravian songs. Then, right before they entered the cemetery, a few members of the Children’s Choir could be heard singing "Sing and Rejoice."
After entering the cemetery, the first stop was the grave of Dr. Adolph Meyer, portrayed by Lititz resident Bill Oehme. Dressed in black, Oehme discussed how Dr. Meyer was born in Westerhausen, Saxony on March 15, 1714. Coming to Lititz in 1771, he was a surgeon and physician to the congregation, having learned his occupation from his father. In January of 1778, while the Brother’s House was transformed into the Revolutionary War Hospital under orders by General George Washington, he was called upon to treat physicians Dr. Brown and Dr. Kennedy when camp fever broke out throughout the hospital. After living in Lititz for 10 years, Adolph Meyer died on Oct. 6, 1781 at the age of 67.
After leaving Dr. Meyer, groups then made their way through God’s Acre (the older portion of the cemetery), where they came face-to-face with several other characters from Lititz’s historic Moravian past, including Samuel Emmanuel Grosh, Mary Penry, Gottlieb Bezold and Gottfried Roesler.
Another interesting "spirit" along the way was Francis Florentine Hagen, who was born in Winston-Salem, N.C. in 1815. While living there, he composed the very popular children’s anthem entitled "Morning Star," which is still sung every year in Lititz. As the rain came down, he explained how he spent his last few years living in the church’s parsonage before being called to the Lord in the year of 1907. During the tour, he and a child led the groups in the singing of "Morning Star," which certainly warmed many hearts.
There was even a brief, light-hearted skit performed in the cemetery toward the end of the program. It was based on the town’s governing body at the time — the Aufseher Collegium — and involved a Moravian sister named Prudence who witnessed a Moravian man placing his hands on another woman.
After the tour was complete, many of the guests stayed afterward for cookies and cider.
"It was very nice, to keep history going," said Carol Kloss. "It’s a great thing in spite of the weather."
Carol and her husband Tom traveled from nearby Paradise and braved the rain to attend.
"We would like to come back during the daytime to see some of the graves that were discussed tonight," she added.
Bob Klepp, of Lititz, also agreed on the importance of the evening.
"We hear about the ancestors," he said, "and it’s this knowledge that makes us a little bit closer to these people." More LANTERN TOUR, page A3